Jon Rahm walked off the 18th green after tying the 54-hole record and building a six-shot lead which left him on the verge of joining Tiger Woods as the only repeat winners of the Memorial.
Moments later, he was doubled over and saying: “Not again,” having been notified he had tested positive for the coronavirus and consequently was out of the tournament. A commanding performance, which included a hole-in-one Saturday morning to complete his second round followed by an eight-under 64 to tie two Memorial records, went to waste.
The PGA Tour said the Spaniard had come into close contact with a person who was Covid-19 positive, meaning Rahm could play provided he was tested daily. Every test since he arrived Monday came back negative except the one after his second round, which was completed on Saturday morning.
The positive test was confirmed as Rahm was playing the 18th hole, knowing nothing except that no one was close to him on the leaderboard.
“This is one of those things that happens in life, one of those moments where how we respond to a setback defines us as people,” Rahm said in a statement he posted to Twitter.
His immediate response was to put on a mask and head to the scoring room to sign his card, knowing he would not be playing the final round.
The Tour said Rahm remained asymptomatic. Andy Levinson, the Tour’s senior vice-president who has overseen its Covid-19 protocols, could not say whether Rahm had been vaccinated, and Rahm did not mention it in his statement.
Players who are fully vaccinated – 14 days past the full vaccination cycle – are not subject to testing as a result of close contact. Levinson said “north of 50%” of players have been fully vaccinated.
By Tour policy, Rahm was withdrawn from the Memorial. That left Patrick Cantlay and Collin Morikawa tied for the lead at 12-under 204.
“It’s kind of the worst situation for something like that to happen and he played awesome today and it’s just, it’s really a shame,” Cantlay said.
Cantlay and Scottie Scheffler, who played with Rahm in the third round, both said they already have tested positive for the coronavirus, though it was more than 90 days ago. They were interviewed on Saturday night to determine if they would be subject to contact tracing protocols. Based on the interview, Levinson said none of Rahm’s playing partners Saturday were cleared.
It was a shocking turn of events given the timing. Rahm was close to perfect on the back nine, running off six birdies in an eight-hole stretch to turn a one-shot lead into a six-shot cushion, tying the Memorial record for largest 54-hole lead set by Woods in 2000.
His 18-under 198 tied the record set by Scott Hoch in 1987. Now he cannot go any further, and the ramifications extend beyond the Memorial.